Bergson, Henri-Louis (1859–1941)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD008-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 08, 2023, from

6. Humour

Le rire: essai sur la signification du comique (Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic) (1900), probably Bergson’s most popular book, can be seen as an appendix to his philosophy of mind and body. For him, a human being is a creature who is both body and spirit (to avoid too intellectual a term: see §7) and uses its body for practical purposes. But sometimes the body takes over and we act as though we were simply a body, either obeying only physical laws – when we slip on a banana-skin, for instance – or when our actions become wooden, mechanical, automatic or stereotyped. It is then that others laugh at us and we have the makings of comedy, low or high. Bergson also gives laughter a function, as a social corrective (his target has something in common with Sartre’s ‘bad faith’). ‘A humorist is a moralist disguised as a scientist’ (1900: 128).

Citing this article:
Lacey, A.R.. Humour. Bergson, Henri-Louis (1859–1941), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD008-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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